Jun 24, 2014

Water war bubbling up between California and Arizona - Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times...The next water war between California and Arizona won't be such an amusing little affair. And it's coming soon.

The issue still is the Colorado River. Overconsumption and climate change have placed the river in long-term decline. It's never provided the bounty that was expected in 1922, when the initial allocations among the seven states of the Colorado River basin were penciled out as part of the landmark Colorado River Compact, which enabled Hoover Dam to be built, and the shortfall is growing.

The signs of decline are impossible to miss. One is the wide white bathtub ring around Lake Mead, the reservoir behind Hoover Dam, showing the difference between its maximum level and today's. Lake Mead is currently at 40% of capacity, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the dam. At 1084.63 feet on Wednesday, it's a couple of feet above its lowest water level since it began filling in 1935.

But the rules governing appropriations from the river are unforgiving and don't provide for much shared sacrifice among the states, or among farmers and city dwellers.

The developing crisis can't be caricatured as farmers versus fish, as it is by Central Valley growers irked at environmental diversions of water into the region's streams. It can't be addressed by building more dams, because reservoirs can't be filled with water that doesn't come. And it can't be addressed by technological solutions such as desalination, which can provide only marginal supplies of fresh water, and then only at enormous expense.

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